ROGERS PARK — Just a few short weeks ago, a seemingly healthy fifth-grader, Emily Diaz, was sitting in her Rogers Park classroom when other students noticed a rash on her arms. Today, she's undergoing initial treatments for Acute Myeloid Leukemia at Lurie Children's Hospital Downtown.
She'll remain at the hospital while she's subject to tests and analysis, but she could be in for at least five months of chemotherapy, said Adrian Dobbins, her principal at Eugene Field Elementary School.
"It was a shock for us and our school community ... the way it just kind of happened overnight," Dobbins said. "She's in good spirits, she's a strong kid, she really is considering what's going on with her."
This week, after convincing Diaz's "overwhelmed" and "humbled" father, Dobbins and New Field Elementary Principal Carlos Patiño came up with the idea to start a GoFundMe campaign to help raise $10,000 for the family, who also have two other young children.
The money will go toward helping the family pay Emily's treatment, as well as recover lost income and money spent getting to and from the hospital.
"I knew we had to do something," Dobbins said.
The reaction among school officials and community members upon finding out Diaz's cancer diagnoses was pure "shock" and felt like it had unfolded "overnight," Dobbins said.
The little girl had been the "picture of health," according to the principal.
Emily's ordeal began a few weeks ago when her classmates noticed a rash on her forearm they'd not seen before.
Concerned, her parents took her to see a pediatrician who immediately diagnosed Diaz with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a rare type of cancer that affects blood and bone marrow. If not promptly treated in the acute stages, the disease can progress and become fatal.
Last week, Diaz's father came to her school to fill-in the administration on his daughter's prognosis and work out a plan so Emily wouldn't fall behind or miss assignments, Dobbins said.
"Imagine that, here it is your daughter is going through this traumatic thing but you're really concerned about her education, it speaks volumes," she said.
After school that day, Dobbins made the trip Downtown to spend an hour of one-on-one time with her student — who the principal described as a reserved, but mature student that loves scary movies, the color blue, pepperoni pizza and to read and draw.
Diaz hasn't had her situation "sugarcoated" to her, Dobbins said. She knows what is happening and is "fighting" through it.
"She has a the strength of a hundred adults, I'll tell you that," Dobbins said.
"It hits you like 'Wow,'" Dobbins said. "This was probably one of my most challenging moments, just the personal connection and seeing looking into those parents faces, looking at the student ... it blew me away."